Exercise during pregnancy - where I think the focus should be…
There are so many great reasons to stay active during your pregnancy – reduce backache by working on postural changes; reduce constipation, bloating and swelling; manage weight gain; maintain muscle strength and endurance; keep up energy levels and mood – are just some of them, but what are the best exercises to do?
Clearly, each client is individual and exercises that work for some don’t work for others or aren’t appropriate, but here are the general principles that I go by when writing programmes for my pregnant clients.
1. I can’t say I spent a lot of time sitting on a Swiss ball once my babies arrived, so why is so much pregnancy exercise limited to just this? I do respect its value in in birth preparation classes and mobilising the pelvis and indeed helping shift baby into optimal birthing position. But what I also think women need is to keep functionally strong through pregnancy and the post-natal period.
I focus on Motherhood Movement Patterns® I have my clients do these in a safe and appropriate way, reflecting what they will be doing in everyday life as mums – squatting and lunging (you’ll be picking things up from low down a lot, be it kids, toys, spillages etc.), lifting (you’ll be lifting your kids frequently so we need to prepare your upper body strength), controlled rotational moves (welcome to the awkward world of getting kids into car seats).
I want you to avoid being that person who “put their back out” lifting their child into their cot, by preparing your muscles for these new demands.
2. I focus on postural corrections as bumps grow and women often assume the typical pregnancy postures such as lumbar lordosis (lower back arch). Where appropriate we strengthen muscles being weakened and stretch those being tightened by the new postural positioning. I ask clients, “where do you feel tight/ uncomfortable” and we look at releases to address these areas.
3. Learn to activate your pelvic floor optimally with your breathing. This is vital in the post-natal period, but ideally should start when pregnant. I cannot overstate how important this is – get it right early and avoid a whole load of potential issues such as prolapse, urinary stress incontinence, pelvic pain, lower back pain.
4. Learn to value the importance of restorative time… and relax! Perform a guided meditation. Have a nice bath. My personal favourite when pregnant was practicing positive affirmations for giving birth (yes – I’m a hypnobirthing convert!). Such activity is beneficial on so many levels – in particular for managing elevated cortisol levels (see my next blog post for more on this).
So, there we have it – my approach to pregnancy exercise. I exercised up until the days before both my children were born, so I know first-hand the benefits it can bring!